A countywide effort to bring a bright Christmas on Dec. 14 to underprivileged kids has begun, and both residents and businesses are being asked to help spread the joy.
Christmas for Kids in Fulton County, a Yuletide outreach program created by Wauseon Police Department school resource officer John Borcherdt, will accept monetary donations only until Dec. 1 to provide each participating child with gifts. Now in its third year, the annual event will provide a breakfast and presents to kids who wouldn’t otherwise be guaranteed a happy holiday.
“I felt like there was more that we could do for kids in the community as first responders,” Borcherdt said. “We know there are a lot of hurting families, so we wanted to reach the underprivileged kids of Fulton County to give them a wonderful Christmas.”
Applications for children qualified to attend are already accumulating. Those selected, and their parents, will have breakfast with first responders Dec. 14 at 9 a.m., donated by McDonald’s and held at the Wauseon Fire Department. At approximately 9:45 a.m., the kids will be whisked into first responder vehicles from throughout the county, and ride with lights flashing and sirens sounding to Walmart at 485 E. Airport Hwy. Each is presented with a Walmart gift card for a chaperoned shopping spree to purchase gifts of their choosing.
The county’s seven school districts provide the names of children who would benefit from the program. All of the county’s police departments contribute through No Shave November, a fundraising opportunity for the typically clean-shaven officers to donate $50 each for the privilege of growing facial hair.
Depending on the amount of monetary donations received, Borcherdt is hoping to provide each participating child with a $75-$100 gift card. Donations by check can be made out to the Wauseon Fireman’s Association, mailed or delivered to 230 Clinton St., Wauseon, Ohio 43567, Attn: Christmas For Kids In Fulton County. Write “Christmas For Kids In Fulton County” on the memo line of the check. Cash is also accepted.
Borcherdt said that, other than promoting the program on local radio, his duties as a school resource officer limit his time to canvass for donations, which entirely fund the venture. He said both individuals and businesses are encouraged to contribute.
Christmas for Kids in Fulton County picks up from Shop With A Cop, an event the WPD formerly held. The name change occurred after a Findlay, Ohio-area resident trademarked Shop With A Cop and began charging organizations $200 to use the name.
“I thought, what a great opportunity for us to rekindle that fire in Fulton County,” Borcherdt said of the current program.
Last year, 76 children benefited from the program, a significant jump from 45 children during the inaugural year. This year, Borcherdt hopes Christmas for Kids in Fulton County can benefit a minimum of 50 kids.
He said during the shopping event the children often have to be encouraged to spend the money on themselves rather than on gifts for their parents.
“Some of them really want to because they know their mom or dad doesn’t get anything for Christmas,” he said. If the child insists, they’re asked to purchase their parents small gifts.
“We want to keep it for the children,” Borcherdt said.
He said Christmas For Kids in Fulton County proves to be an emotional event for first responders each year.
“These kids are on Cloud 9,” he said. “Being able to spend one-on-one time with first responders means the world to these kids. And their reaction to be able to buy a gift they’ve wanted for months and months – we help them to finally have that within reach. It pulls at some heartstrings.”
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office also has displayed the giving spirit. Some deputies are participating in the No Shave November fundraiser for Christmas for Kids and will assist on the program day.
And for the first time deputies have collected items for 12 boxes they plan to donate to Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization that ships boxes filled with clothing, personal hygiene essentials, school supplies, and toys to underprivileged children worldwide. The boxes are shipped through Victory Chapel United Brethren Church in Liberty Center.
“Every day, I try to instill on the deputies that there are people a lot worse off than we are,” Sheriff Roy Miller said. “This is a way to give back to the community.”
Samaritan’s Purse will accept more than 1,300 boxes from around Fulton County this year. The organization has distributed 11 million boxes since 1993.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.